Jet skis have the image of being a luxury item, and while sure there are some expensive jet skis, they’re not always that expensive. Just look at the average cost of a boat, and see that a jet ski is a bargain!
Even if a jet ski can be affordable, are they cheap to fix? Are jet ski easy to work on? How complicated is it for the average person to maintain a jet ski?
Power Sports Can Be Expensive
The honest truth is that anything to do with power sports will be more expensive to fix than say your car.
But compared to your car, a jet ski is a lot simpler. Even compared to most boats, a jet ski is simpler and cheaper to fix and maintain.
The most expensive part of a jet ski is the dealership. The hourly rate for dealerships is above $100/h plus the cost of parts. If the part cost $500, and it takes 2 hours to do, then you’re looking at least $700 to fix your jet ski. Even if the tech gets it done in 30 minutes, they still get the 2 hours because their skill allowed them to accelerate the process.
The real money for most dealerships is parts and repair, not the new unit sales. Parts and repairs can have up to 40% margins, but a new jet ski would be lucky to have an 8% margin. Yet, people haggle over new sales and not the after sales.
Jet Skis Are Not That Hard To Fix
I find a jet ski is harder to work on compared to a lawn mower, but a lot easier than a car.
If you know basic automotive repairs, you’ll do fine fixing jet skis. Just like with anything, you’ll find you may need special tools (most of which you can make with a welder and metal).
To better explain why jet skis are easy to work on, I need to break down a few points.
Jet Ski Transmissions Are Simple
The transmission of a jet ski is so simple that it doesn’t exist.
While a jet ski will have a forward, neutral and reverse, that doesn’t mean it’s shifting through those gears.
A jet ski is a direct drive system, when the engine is on the impeller is moving and processing water. Going into forward or reverse is a bucket in the rear redirecting the thrust. As for neutral, it’s a spot between forward and reverse. Learn more here.
At worst, you replace an electric motor that controls the reverse bucket or replace a manual handle that also adjust it.
Jet Ski Engines Are Simple
For a lot of jet skis they’re simply repurposed motorcycle engines, so if you can work on a motorcycle, you can work on a jet ski.
The marine built jet ski engines are even simpler! 3 pistons, 3 spark plugs, and everything is within reach from the top of the engine compartment.
The jet skis that use motorcycle engines can be more of a pain as parts are built with a motorcycle in mind first. For example, the oil filter can be located on the side, perfect for a motorcycle but annoying for a jet ski.
Lets not forget that jet ski engines are so simple that most of them don’t even have an air filter.
Jet Ski Computers
About the only thing hard when it comes to jet skis is the computers, and they keep getting more of them.
To cut down on theft, some models have a key on the lanyard or a fob to secure the watercraft. This means the jet ski needs to be programmed and often by the dealership as they have the computer. Buying a 3rd party computer is possible, but they’re expensive and want yearly fees.
Replacing certain parts of the jet ski means they need to be programmed by the dealership. Even resetting the maintenance light can’t be done on every model of jet ski by the owner. Simple things like this often cost a half an hour, so you’re looking at $50 or more.
Most Common Things To Break On A Jet Ski
Jet skis are simple and not that hard to fix, so long as you have some automotive skills.
To give you an idea of what’s most likely to break, I created a list:
- Battery – people don’t take care of them and often die after the first year.
- Wear ring – Unlike the name, it doesn’t wear out, but people do damage them a lot. This is to protect your jet pump from damage if you suck something up like rocks. They can also be a pain to replace on some models and mostly likely problem people have with jet skis because they get too close to land or debris.
- Starter relay – You may replace this once or twice for the life of a jet ski. Not common to break, but it does confuse people when it does.
- Spark plugs – Just go ahead and replace them every year. A lot of the starting problems I see with jet skis tend to be spark plugs, and for some reason people think they don’t need to replace.
- Bad gas – Avoid ethanol if you can, but stick to 10% or less. Add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank when the jet ski will be sitting for months. Keep the gas tank near empty for long term storage.
Why Do Jet Ski Dealerships Charge So Much To Repair Jet Skis?
Jet ski dealerships will charge more than a car dealership, I can guarantee you that.
The reason goes beyond power sports in general charging more.
Just like other power sports industry, the jet ski industry is seasonal. Dealerships need to make their money in the summer. This mad rush leads to them being more busy, and people are willing to pay for it.
Moreover, the tools and computers dealerships need are expensive. You also have staff that can’t be laid off every year, or you won’t keep talent. It’s a delicate balance that many people don’t know about or frankly care.
The good news is that the dealerships are more expensive because they need to be, but that doesn’t mean other local repair shops are also as expensive. You can often find local jet ski repair shops that don’t have the overhead, or some guy who does it out of his garage.
The only problem is that you can’t use non-dealerships for warranty work, and sometimes they even go to the dealership for the computer programming or for things they can’t fix – which means you pay more overall because they’re only middle-man. If the problem is really bad, take it to the dealership, or you run the risk of paying more.